We are thrilled to finally be able to share a special project that’s been under wraps for a while—Earlier this spring, CYSO took part in a collaboration with Goodman Theatre and Emmy Award-winning actor and producer Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) star of the new play Good Night, Oscar. In the production, Hayes starred as Oscar Levant, a musician, actor and composer whose witty personality and trademark one-liners made him a regular on talk shows in the 1950s and 60s. (You may remember him as Gene Kelly’s piano playing friend in An American in Paris.)
At a key moment in the play, Oscar performs an excerpt from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue accompanied by a recorded orchestra track. We were thrilled to be asked by the show’s producers to create that track with musicians from CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra.
Maestro Allen Tinkham, who prepared and conducted the orchestra for the recording, reflected on the project, “It’s always wonderful for CYSO as a training organization to get to work with an organization that is primarily built for performing. That’s what makes the collaboration between CYSO and the Goodman Theatre so exciting.”
In addition to being a celebrated actor, not everyone knows that Sean Hayes is also a talented musician. He studied piano for 20 year and originally intended on being a composer or musical director before catching the acting bug. Hayes plays the piano part to Rhapsody in Blue live in stage, a moment so impactful that producers asked that it was kept secret from audiences to avoid spoiling the magic of Hayes’ impressive skill on display.
In a review for WTTW, critic Hedy Weiss wrote, “It is at this point that Hayes sits down at a grand piano and gives a phenomenal performance of the exceedingly difficult piece, with accompaniment from a taped orchestra. It is an almost belief-defying turn (with the secret that the actor is playing the “Rhapsody” for real out by now), and it is enough to leave you speechless. Not surprisingly the audience roared.”
Because he would perform live to the orchestra track, getting the performance recording perfect was vital to the process. Hayes joined us at a rehearsal prior to the recording session, giving students an up close view of a creative collaboration.
“I am someone who really loves cross-disciplinary interaction in the arts,” said Symphony Orchestra bassist Tom Gotsch. “With CYSO and Goodman working together, you’re able to take a little bit of the theater world and combine it with a little bit of the orchestra world and blend everything together. It’s a really unique opportunity because I don’t know any other teen music programs that are able to partner with a world class theater. I definitely felt that spirit of inspiration when we were playing with Sean Hayes.”
“The partnership between CYSO and Goodman Theatre has allowed me experience this great moment,” shared Danica Tuoy, Symphony Orchestra horn player. “I grew up listening to Rhapsody in Blue on repeat. Getting to hear the piano in person has been a really inspiring experience that I don’t think I’ll be able to replicate again.”
We are grateful to the show’s producers, Goodman Theatre staff, and Sean Hayes for such an enriching collaboration and one in a lifetime experience for our young musicians. Good Night, Oscar‘s critically-acclaimed run ended in April, but we’re hopeful it won’t be the last we see of these brilliant show!